“As a small business owner you have no greater leverage than the truth.”
– John Whittier
Ever meet someone who you couldn’t quite pin down, personality-wise? Maybe they just had a shifty, uncertain air about them. Or maybe you couldn’t escape the hunch that there was something they were hiding from you. Sometimes these personality traits can be alluring, and make you eager to find the reason for all the mystery. Often though, you’re going to end up annoyed by this person’s aloofness and suspicious of their true motive.
These personality pitfalls are important to avoid in the business world as well. As customers become increasingly in control of the flow of information, they have more reason than ever to expect honesty and integrity from companies marketing to them. The best way to project that integrity is simple: be transparent.
Why Transparency Works
You’ve worked so hard to develop a product that can really help people, why shroud its potential in mystery? Let it out into the open so potential customers can see what they’ve been missing! They’ll appreciate your honesty and be more eager to see what about your product makes you so confident.
Remember, one of the main factors that is making consumers more skeptical is the fact that they are over-marketed to. Being bombarded 24/7 with messages about how a given product is ‘the best on the market’ inevitably leads a consumer to think, “Well, they can’t all be telling the truth.” This gives you an opportunity to differentiate yourself as a rare source of honesty in the business world, no matter how big or small your company is.
Plus, customers are extremely busy, and a lack of transparency can read to them like a waste of their time. Once they sniff out even the slightest hint of insincerity, they’ll move on to something they feel more secure about investing their time and money in.
Usually, the more discussed examples of this phenomenon are when companies have to do some kind of public relations damage control. When a company has to spin a PR nightmare into something more positive, total transparency is a good way to tell the public, “We messed up. We’re sorry. These are the steps we’re taking to ensure we don’t mess up again.” This version of transparency is extremely important and can be the most ethical and efficient way to get back in the public’s good graces after something undesirable is exposed about your business practices.
Okay, so we know transparency can be a great way for your company to dig itself out of a hole. But what other, less reactive uses are there for transparency in the business world? Can a company like yours benefit from implementing aggressive honesty into the conceptual framework of your marketing strategy?
The answer is a resounding ‘Yes.’
Companies over the last few years have shown that being aggressively and creatively transparent is a great way to enhance customer experience and engagement without very much extra money or effort. Simply put, customers want to know they are being treated with honesty and integrity, and they will go out of their way to use products and services from companies who find new and interesting ways to prove it to them.
Here are some great examples of the most creative uses of transparency to enhance a company’s engagement with their customers:
1) The Guardian using transparency to help dictate new website design aesthetic.
I think what The Guardian is doing is super exciting. Website design aesthetics are an absolutely perfect place to bring transparency into the marketing process, especially for a website whose online presence is their product. Customers are able to see that The Guardian cares enough about the reader experience to not just take a guess at what design style will be most user-friendly; they’re literally letting the users tell them. The general concept isn’t revolutionary – focus groups have been trying to achieve this kind of research-based execution for as long as marketing has existed – but never before has it been put into practice in such an immediately transparent and customer-engaging way.
2) Miracle Whip embracing the polarizing nature of its product; humorously poking fun at self.
Miracle Whip provides a perfect example of how effective transparency can humanize a company’s brand. Miracle Whip isn’t shying away from the fact that there is a clear competition between their product and traditional mayonnaise. In fact, their recent marketing reflects not only a self-awareness of the competition itself, but also the fact that it’s one they haven’t exactly come out on top of in recent years. This enables them to internalize an underdog spirit that lends itself beautifully to incorporating humor into their advertising. The end product is perfect for the younger demographic they are targeting. After all, one great way to prove you are trustworthy is to display an ability and willingness to poke fun at yourself without damaging your brand. Miracle Whip is using these strategies to their advantage in an entertaining and engaging way.
3) Jones Soda allows customers to submit photos which they use as bottle labels. This personalizes their product and directly engages their customer base with their brand.
There’s no better way to engage customers with your brand than to make them a part of it. In this instance Jones Soda uses user-submitted photos as their bottle labels. The photos are often black and white and/or include the submitter’s children or pets. While some marketers would be concerned with brand stability suffering, they do a great job achieving a consistent feel in the photos. Just like with The Guardian’s example, Jones Soda is placing their customer base at the center of the brand’s visual aesthetic. When I drink a Jones Soda, I’m not confronted with a template that was designed for my demographic by a marketing agency. Instead, I see a picture of (and submitted by) someone who is likely very much like me, enhancing my UX and reinforcing my engagement with the brand.
Some Thoughts to Recap
– Be honest and open
Your product/service is great; why not show it to your customer base with the transparency and openness that will prove it to them.
– Consumers are over-marketed to
This builds skepticism. Show them that you are looking to engage with them in an effort to solve an issue, not bombard them with one-way conversation about how great you are. Do this effectively, and it will set your company apart.
– Transparency can humanize your brand
Traditional marketing methods lack transparency, leading companies to appear stale and robotic. If your company comes across as open and willing to have a little fun with your marketing strategy, customers will more quickly become ready to engage with your product.
– Be Proactive
Transparency doesn’t have to be about damage control! Be proactively transparent. This way it won’t come across as a strategy at all. Customers will be presented with a trustworthy picture of your company from the get-go, a great way to convert them into leads and eventually promoters.
– BE CREATIVE
Creativity should be a part of every marketing decision you make. Once your numbers are crunched, your task is now to use that data in a way that is new and fresh. Transparency is no different. Creative transparency will further humanize your brand and engender trust with your customer base.